Nuptial Retreats

By Sharon Naylor

July 7, 2014 6 min read

Wedding couples look for the perfect, unique setting for their ceremony and reception. A leading trend is renting a beach or lake house, or an island villa or estate home, as their wedding's "home" for the weekend. Wedding coordinators now have a list of estate homes and private homes that are available for wedding rental, and many of these are lavish properties with gorgeous gardens and sprawling lawns where tents can be set up. Add in grand interior rooms with high ceilings and opulent libraries with oversize fireplaces, and the wedding seems to take place in a castle or manor.

In addition to sprawling estates in the U.S. and overseas, a new trend is renting a villa or private estate home on an island for a destination wedding. Maryanne DiMatteo Diamante, director of sales for Rosewood Jumby Bay in Antigua (RosewoodHotels.com), says, "For those who want to experience the ultimate in private luxury, booking an estate home or villa allows the wedding group to stay together in a mansion with open floor plans and often open-air views of the ocean, well-appointed bedrooms, the estate home's private pool and private beach, among other indulgences. Often, the wedding group can arrange to have the estate home's staff -- including butler, maids and personal chef -- serve their group and care for all of their needs." Renting an estate home is very VIP, the way that celebrities vacation, and wedding couples now want their wedding guests to enjoy a lavish vacation in addition to their wedding.

When you book a villa or estate home that's part of a resort's collection, you'll often be granted full access to the resort's facilities and services, including the resort's restaurants, bars, pools, fitness facilities and the spa.

Another option is to look at privately owned estate homes, beach houses, mansions and villas. At Estate Corporate Events and Wedding Venues, co-founder and president Jamie Ehrsam showcases a wide variety of homes for rent, such as a tropical Balinese property and a rustic ranch-inspired home, among over 200 other lavish properties. "We want to keep the comfort and subtle joy of the home, a large part of married life, present in both your ceremony and reception. Your guests (will) feel as if you have opened up your heart and home to them for one perfect evening of merriment. You know what they say, ‘There's no place like home.'"

Guided by a wedding coordinator or by a home-rentals management company, you'll narrow your search to estates that regularly host weddings. As many wedding couples find out when they start researching privately owned homes for general rental, such as at a beach or on a lake, many homeowners are not eager to rent their properties for weddings. Prices may be sky-high and insurance deposits can be astronomical. Many homeowners don't allow tents to be staked into their lawns, and many enforce an evening curfew to eliminate wedding noise from bothering their neighbors.

Speaking of prices, it can be quite expensive to rent a home or villa, as you'll often face one fee to book the property and another fee to book their grounds, and then you'll add in the high costs of everything you'll need to rent, which goes beyond tables and chairs to dance floors, a caterer's tent, a stage for the band or table for the deejay and more, down to the serving spoons for the cocktail party. Creating a wedding location from scratch, to take place at a house, racks up some hefty bills. And, of course, insurance costs so essential to any unique wedding site will also take a bite out of your budget. For instance, Ehrsam's company holds a refundable security deposit of 50 percent of the rental fee to cover all minor damage and incidentals.

Still, even with a high price tag, many wedding couples love the idea of a "Great-Gatsby" mansion wedding, their guests milling about the grand gardens and gathering beneath an enormous tent, the finest catering served on fine china, their wedding photos taken in the estate home's tall-windowed rooms, balconies to decorate and that view.

Some estates available for wedding rentals have been featured in movies and television shows, since show-site scouts come to companies like Ehrsam's to find the most gorgeous properties, pools and gardens. So if your wedding takes place in one of the famous homes, it will be an exciting story to share with your wedding guests.

And then there's the opportunity to host your wedding in the beach, lake or country home owned by a family friend or relative. You may have spent many treasured summers there with your family, and the offer to hold your wedding at that beloved home is an exciting gift. However, to protect yourselves, the homeowners and the guests, it's important to hire a qualified wedding coordinator who can walk you and the homeowners through all of the details of your arrangement, pointing out what will need to be rented, how much insurance to get, and how to prepare the property for guests' safety as well as decorate it into your dream wedding location. There are many details to arrange, but in the end, you may arrive to your wedding by boat, celebrate in the gardens or capture your beautiful wedding in an idyllic setting with treasured photos and video.

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